Today is the last day. He will make certain of it.
One moment asleep, perhaps dreaming. The next, snapped awake and sitting bolt upright in bed. His mouth open in a silent scream. His face doughy white in the darkness. He gasped and struggled to breathe for a moment, and paused his mortal endeavor only to run trembling fingers through matted, disheveled hair. With an explosive sigh it was gone, the last poisoned breath of nightly horror, and his lungs were filled again with cool, pure wakefulness.
The moon was a ghastly apparition to wage solo combat with the darkness. It hung in the frame of his window and seemed to wail sorrow, beseech salvation. No one could save the moon from the dark side of the planet. No one could save him.
His numb gaze found the face of the clock beside his bed. Two o'clock in the morning. Hours still before the dawn. He shuddered and gagged emptily.
God, he moaned silently, turning his eyes to the obscured heavens. God, help me. God, please, just . . . just . . . help me.
For another moment longer he lingered, waiting. Nothing came. Nothing ever came.
Except the promise. The promise of one day, eventually, inevitably. The promise that it must come, the answer to all his fears. This promise that was a thrill of his heart, a roll of his gut, a wrenching, paralyzing grip of his thoughts. This promise that was the sudden, awful realization that soon, all too soon, no matter his denial or his struggles, no matter his care or carelessness, no matter his weeping or rage, no matter nothing, it must come to him. This promise death. The ultimate nightfall. It MUST come to him.
Oh, God, he blubbered within the still echoes of his own thoughts, I don't want to die.
Yet everybody dies. Everything fades. The mountains. The seas. Even the sun must, one day soon, dim and be extinguished.
It was a cold, slight comfort. A cool breeze, it clutched his shoulders chummily and whispered into the shell of his ear.
His mother's voice, perhaps, singing. Or his father's, more likely, cursing. Borne to him from the unimaginable depths of his memories.
At that moment, he rolled off the bed and stumbled onto the freezing hardwood floor of his bedroom. His arms thrashed about, in search of balance or in defense of his soul, perhaps. And he found his feet. Then he found a corner.
The dead, he knew, could speak. His father, passed these many years, often came in the night to scold him. And his mother, God rest her, was ever about the shadows and eves, singing brightly.
In the darkness. In absence of the sun.
The clock's red, angry eyes glowed from the night stand. "2:00 AM"
He took a thick, full grip of his hair, his face a mask of rage and disgust and horror . . . and he screamed until his throat bled.
The hallway was long and broad. To either side, doorways opened on great chambers that were filled from wall to wall with a hive of office cubicles and partitions. And about the hive, an infestation of humanity swarmed angrily.
As he walked the length of the passage to find his own cube among the comb, other worker bees parted the way before him. It was a curious effect, but it was not an effect of conscious design. His peers did not shirk to the brink, cowering in his presence. It was never so obvious as that. Rather, they simply allowed him more space than they allowed others of their kind. He was an obstruction, to part the flowing stream of insects.
No one spoke or nodded. No one waved or wished him 'Good morning!' Though they often did this with others that passed before and behind.
He was not oblivious to the effect. Many times, he reveled in it. Many times, it was a silent fuel to feed his seething, angry soul. As it was now.
A pool of darkness seemed to swell from his breast and from between his eyes. His chest bulged with it, and his black brow was, blackly, raised. He let is eyes fall full on the gaze of a petite woman passing on the right.
She fought to avoid his attention. A ream of documents fluttered in her grip, and she made a show of fussing with their care.
A tall, lanky man followed close behind. His eyes lingered upon the bouncing buttocks of the woman that carried the unruly reports. Then he seemed to notice that black brow for the first time. Their eyes met. Confusion. Fear. And a sudden glance away.
His desk was a mountain range of binders and folders and ancient, yellowed reports. Official fluorescent lighting struggled to penetrate the oppressive peaks of accounting reports and reconciliations, which were heaped above his head and which dated from 1982. He tossed his lunch into a corner of his 'desk' and collapsed into his protesting chair.
His cube was the last cube in the farthest corner of the building. It was dimly lit and cold. Few worker bees ever had reason to wander this way. He liked to think of it as the last stop in a long line of stops.
He liked to think of it as the frontier. Beyond this spot here, beyond this thin line, lies emptiness. The wilderness. An entire city of concrete and steel. An ocean of stupid, thoughtless people. A mess of shit.